Country music and sports seem to go hand-in-hand. Maybe that’s why there are so many country singers who used to play sports in school or even professionally. While we know Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith were big football players back in the day, here are 10 country singers you may not have known were star athletes before starting their music careers.
1. Garth Brooks
Did you know Brooks was a big time baseball player? He was signed with the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals. Brooks never made it on the field for a regular game, but he practiced with them during spring training before making the switch to music.
2. Conway Twitty
This country legend was almost a professional baseball player. Twitty was incredibly close to playing for the Philadelphia Phillies after playing baseball in high school. He was drafted into the Korean War before he could join the team and never returned to the sport.
3. Kip Moore
Moore was a multi-talented athlete growing up. The “Dirt Road” singer attended Wallace State College in Alabama on a basketball scholarship. Then, after two years, he transferred to Valdolsta State University in Georgia to play on their golf team. Moore continued to stay active after he graduated, moving to Hawaii where he spent his time backpacking and surfing.
4. Kenny Rogers
A little known fact about Rogers — he’s a true tennis ace. In fact, he was a professional-level player for 10 years. “I developed a national ranking while I was on the road playing with Wimbledon champions,” the singer told Rolling Stone Country.
5. Colt Ford
This Georgia native was a professional golfer before switching over to the music business. Born Jason Farris Brown, the “Dirt Road Anthem” singer and writer even played on the Nationwide Tour.
6. Charley Pride
Pride may be an icon in country music, but he was also an incredibly talented baseball player. In 1952, he pitched in the Negro American League before playing on the Boise Yankees farm team. He spent the next several years playing on minor league teams across the country until he released his first single in 1966. Pride still has a love of baseball and is part owner of the Texas Rangers.
7. Carrie Underwood
Underwood played softball for eight years, including all four years at Checotah High School in Oklahoma. She also played basketball during her high school years. “Participating in sports also taught me important life lessons about dedication and teamwork,” the country superstar said in a statement. Underwood recently donated $100,000 to Checotah School District Girls Athletic Programs.
8. Brian Kelley
Kelley, one half of Florida Georgia Line, was a well-known college baseball player. He played at Florida State University on a baseball scholarship before transferring to Belmont University in Nashville (where he met Tyler Hubbard).
9. Sam Hunt
Hunt pursued a career as a professional football player before setting his sights on music in 2008. He was nominated for a Wendy’s Heisman at his Georgia high school before playing quarterback at Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Though he was invited to train with the Kansas City Chiefs, he didn’t officially make it onto the team.
10. Chad Brock
You may have forgotten, but Brock was a big time WCW wrestler before he started making music. The “Yes!” singer played football in high school, but wanting to focus on music, he chose to move to Nashville after graduation. When music didn’t take off right away, he started wrestling but was forced to quit in 1996 due to an injury. He released his first record in 1998.